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Saved Through Water

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Genesis 7:11-24 tells the story of the greatest cataclysm ever to overtake the earth. Because the wickedness of man was great on the earth, God sent a flood to cleanse it by destroying everything that lived on the land. In this flood, every human being died except for eight. The patriarch Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives escaped the deluge because Noah had obeyed God and built an ark for their salvation.

This event has great spiritual significance because it shows that God will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. However, it has even more significance for believers because it is a type of our salvation. In 1 Peter 3:18-21, the apostle compares the rescue of Noah's family to our rescue through baptism. This evening, let's explore this comparison to gain a better understanding of being saved through water.

I believe there are four main ways in which these two events are similar. First, we must recognize that, as in the days of Noah, judgment is coming. The apostle Paul predicts this in Acts 17:30-31. Here, he urges everyone to repent because the day is coming when Jesus will judge the world, as proven by His resurrection.

In both of these cases, the timing of judgment is uncertain. God warned Noah about the flood 120 years before the event and waited patiently while he constructed the ark. God continues to wait patiently in our day, but only He knows the day and the hour when His patience will come to an end and His wrath begin.

As Peter predicted would happen in 2 Peter 3, some take God's patience as an opportunity to scoff. Because He has not destroyed the world with fire yet, they assume that He will never do so. When Noah tried to warn others during those 120 years, all of them had the same reaction. They did not believe that judgment would ever come, so they continued to live wickedly. Tragically, they realized their mistake only when it was too late to do anything about it. Today, we must be wiser than they were. Otherwise, we will be destroyed in the judgment of fire as they were destroyed in the judgment of water.

Second, Jesus warns us that only a few will be saved from the judgment. Look at Luke 13:23-24. We don't know how many people were alive when the flood came, but it certainly was many more than 8! Nonetheless, the number of the saved didn't reach double digits. In Luke, Jesus is asked if only a few will be saved, and His answer is essentially “Yes.” This is the nature of the judgments of God. Only a remnant is saved, while the many are destroyed.

This should cause us to consider soberly our own beliefs about our salvation. I know all too many people who think that it doesn't make a difference what church you go to or even if you go to church as long as you're a good person. This is a very convenient belief to hold because it basically means that nobody has to do anything in order to inherit eternal life.

Sadly, it isn't true, and we can tell that it's not true because of the words of the Lord. If indeed being a good person were enough, then Jesus would have told His questioner in Luke 13 that in fact many would be saved. After all, aren't many people good people, at least in the sense of that phrase? In reality, only a few will be saved, and none of those will be saved because they are good people.

This takes us to our next point, which is that the righteous will not save themselves. Here, let's consider Titus 3:4-5. At this, some might raise an eyebrow. After all, didn't Noah build the ark that carried his family safely through the flood?

Not exactly. Let me explain. As you may or may not have seen, there is a consistent online debate about whether the ark was seaworthy. Some believers say yes; Skeptics say no. I think the debate is silly for reasons I'll get into in a little bit, but if we only compare the competing arguments, I think the skeptics are right.

According to Genesis 6, the ark was 300 cubits long. Even using 18-inch cubits, that's 450 feet. The longest all-wooden ship ever made, constructed with all of our modern knowledge of shipbuilding, was the S.S. Wyoming. From one end of the deck to the other, the Wyoming was only 350 feet long, but it eventually sank because wood isn't rigid enough to give stability to a hull that long. What, then, of an ark that is 100 feet longer?

As I hinted earlier, though, all of this is beside the point. There is only one reason why the ark protected Noah and his family: because God promised him that if he built the ark and went into it, he would be safe. If Noah had just been a weird dude who decided to build the ark on his own, he and his family surely would have perished along with the rest of the human race. Salvation did not come from the ark; salvation came from God.

In the same way, salvation does not come simply because we have been immersed in water. As Titus says, we do not save ourselves through works of righteousness. Instead, God saves us according to His mercy through the washing of regeneration, which is baptism.

There are those who claim that we teach works salvation because we insist upon the necessity of baptism for salvation. However, works salvation is not what we teach, nor is it what the Bible says. Apart from God’s mercy, none of us could be saved, whether we dunk ourselves in the baptistry or not.

Nonetheless, and this is our final point, we must obey in order to be saved. Let's read from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9. Note that Paul identifies two groups as belonging to the condemned: those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel. It follows, then, that if we do not want to be condemned, we must both know God and obey the gospel.

This is no different than what we see in Noah's life. The ark didn't save Noah; God did. However, imagine that Noah had said to God, “You know, God, building an ark is a lot of work. I know You could save me without an ark, so I'm not going to build it, and I'm just going to trust in You to save me.” If Noah had said such a thing, assuming that he even lived long enough to see the flood, he would have been fish food!

So too for us. Baptism does not save us by its own virtue, any more than the ark saved Noah by its own virtue. However, Noah still had to build the ark if he wanted to be saved, and we still must be baptized if we want to be saved. That is what God has asked of us, and woe to those who refuse to obey!

To put things another way, heading into the final judgment without having been baptized makes just as much sense as waiting for the flood without an ark. In both cases, we might claim to be trusting God, but really, we're putting Him to the test, and we'll meet the fate that all rebels deserve.

A City Full of Idols

Monday, June 20, 2022

As all of us are doubtless aware, we are currently in the middle of Pride Month, a celebration of a number of different lifestyles the Bible condemns as sinful. In case we have forgotten, anytime we shop at a chain store, displays and decorations all remind us. I would not be surprised if, in the years to come, Pride Month develops the same kind of national presence as the holiday season.

Many brethren find this spectacle deeply distressing. What are we supposed to do when we see ungodliness being exalted everywhere around us? As always, the word of God gives us the answers we need.

In the first century, Christians were a tiny minority in a society that celebrated ungodliness too. Let's consider, then, one Christian’s reaction to such display. Let's turn to Acts 17 to see how Paul conducted himself in Athens, a city full of idols.

First, we see Paul talking to, not just about. Consider his behavior in Acts 17:16-21. Note that Paul didn't come to Athens intending to preach at all. He has only traveled to the city after having been driven out of Berea and is there to wait for Silas and Timothy. Interestingly, this meeting never happens. Silas and Timothy only catch up with Paul after he moves on to Corinth.

As far as we can tell, he doesn’t stay in Athens for very long. However, even this brief delay bothers him. Athens is an extremely idolatrous city, and he finds the evidence of idolatry distressing. There is a synagogue in Athens, and the Jews there would have been as anti-idol as Paul was. The synagogue is not the only place that Paul visits, however. He also goes to the marketplace and reasons with the idolaters.

In our day, it is easy for us to stay in the synagogue, both real and virtual. It's easy for us to come to church and complain about how awful Pride Month is to people that we know already agree with us one hundred percent. It's just as easy for us to go on our social-media platform of choice and make the same complaints to Christians and other conservatives all over the country.

However, there are two problems with confining ourselves to what is easy. First, like gossip, it tends to produce self-righteousness in our hearts. The more we condemn somebody else’s sin that does not tempt us, the more we begin to believe that we are more righteous because we don't know that temptation. We start sounding like the Pharisee in the parable of Luke 18, who thanks God for making him better than the sinners around him. If we are not careful, self-righteousness will lead us to trust in ourselves and not in Jesus.

Second, complaining about sinners to other Christians never saved anybody. We are sneering at people who are drowning in sin without even checking to see if they want to be rescued! Obviously, reaching out to sinners can be hard on the ego. In Acts 17, many of the sinners treat Paul with contempt, and different sinners treated Jesus the same way. However, when the value of the soul is so great, who are we to stay silent lest our egos get squished?

Notice, though, that Paul doesn't make his appeal in a contemptuous or perfunctory way. Instead, he seeks common ground. Look at Acts 17:22-29. All the way through this sermon, Paul is doing his best to come to Gentile idolaters on their own terms. He praises them for setting up an altar to an unknown god. He quotes their own poets to support his argument. He doesn't call them to repentance until he has gotten buy-in already.

We can and should do the same thing, even in the context of Pride Month. On one level, Pride Month is about celebrating everyone as valuable and special. You know what? We celebrate that too! The Bible teaches, and I believe, that everyone who is lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, or any other letters out there is precious, infinitely valuable, and loved by God more than we can imagine.

In fact, we can make that argument more strongly than the world can. Pride Month arose because of the horrible way that many of those people were and are treated, often by those who claim to be Christians. Let me add, by the way, that such displays of mockery and contempt are just as evil as the sins they purport to be condemning. Pride Month is an attempt to balance the scales, but the problem is that it offers no better reason to feel good about yourself than what others are saying about you. When the parades are over, then what?

Christianity, by contrast, teaches that everyone is infinitely precious, no matter what others say or do. We are created in the image of God, and Jesus was willing to die to redeem us. This means that every one of those people with pride flags has an intrinsic worth that is greater than the world and everything on it. Pride Month does not and cannot offer an assurance like that. We don't come to them because they are disgusting and need to clean up their act. We come to them because we love and value them simply for existing.

Finally, we must point sinners to Jesus. Look at how Paul concludes his sermon in Acts 17:29-31. He has shown that he respects the idolaters of Athens, but they still need to repent, and they need to repent because Jesus has risen from the dead.

This must always be our appeal. People in the world shouldn’t become Christians because Christianity uniquely affirms the value of everyone, even though it does. They should become Christians because God has made this Jesus whom they crucified both Lord and Christ.

The Lordship of Jesus, as proven by the resurrection, matters for two reasons. First, it means that whoever we are, we can rely on Him for salvation. As the Hebrews writer says, He saves to the uttermost. It doesn't matter what we've done. We can be as wicked as wicked can be, but His grace is great enough to erase all our sins. When Jesus stands between you and the devil, the devil isn't going to get through!

However, Jesus as Lord doesn’t only offer grace. He also demands submission. The day will come when He will judge everyone on earth. This is the great tragedy of Pride Month. All of those people celebrating their sin, for all of their value and their worth, are facing eternal condemnation. God is not willing for any of them to perish, but all of them will perish unless they repent. If we want them to be saved, we must tell them both that repentance is possible and that it is necessary. The reason for both of these things is Jesus.

Christ, Our Shepherd

Thursday, June 09, 2022

We live in a fearful time. Most other people in most other times would think it strange that Americans today are as afraid as they are. After all, we live in the heart of the territory controlled by the greatest military power of all time. There has not been war here for more than 150 years. Far from being worried about famine, we have so much to eat that we are more concerned about gaining too much weight. We have access to such good medical care that most of us can expect to live to ages far beyond what our brethren in the 1st century would have expected.

Nonetheless, we are afraid. We are afraid of COVID, afraid of politicians that we think are hostile to us, afraid of societal change that we think is for the worst, and probably afraid even of things that we can't put a name to. Optimism about the future is sadly out of fashion.

When we wrestle with fear, we should remember all the reasons that God gives us not to be afraid. It may be that not everything in our earthly lives goes our way, but through His son Jesus, He will take care of what is most important. This morning, then, let's see what we can learn from John 10 about Christ our Shepherd.

The first section of our reading this morning concerns Jesus as the gate of the sheep. Let's look at John 10:1-10. There are a couple of different elements to Jesus’ words here that are well worth our attention. Of course, in this text we are the sheep, and Jesus tells us that we can expect to encounter two categories of people. One is made up of thieves and robbers. The other is only occupied by Jesus. The sheep don't listen to the thieves and robbers; They only listen to Him.

For us, this underscores the importance of listening only to the words of our Lord and identifying all the other religious voices that are not His. In this world, there is an abundance of false teachers. They occupy pulpits all across our country and the world, and every one of them teaches something that according to the Scriptures is not the word of Jesus.

Make no mistake, brethren! These are not good people who have made a mistake but have useful things to say to us. They are thieves and robbers. If we listen to them, they will lead us away from Jesus for their own benefit. Instead, we must be careful to listen only to the word of Christ and reject anything and everything that does not come from it.

So too, notice what Jesus says about Himself as the gate. If we enter by Him, we will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. This language should remind us, as Jesus intended for it to do, of Psalm 23 and its beautiful depiction of what it means to have the Lord as our shepherd. When God takes care of you, He makes sure that you have everything you need.

By contrast, the devil wants us to believe that Jesus will not provide for us if we follow Him. He wants us to think that the grass is better where Jesus does not lead us, that the best life is lived apart from Christ. This is one hundred percent a lie! He intends our harm, not our good. By contrast, if we stick close to Jesus, we will find that we lack for nothing.

Second, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. Let's continue our reading with John 10:11-21. Here, our Lord shows us how he is different from a hireling. The hireling flees from the wolf, allowing the wolf to destroy the sheep. By contrast, the good shepherd, even though he is not equipped to defend himself from the wolf, will die in order to keep the sheep safe.

Of course, this is exactly what Jesus did. The wolf that He had to face down was none other than the devil, who came to devour all our souls. Even Jesus could not save us from Satan by living. Instead, He had to die. He willingly laid down his life for our sakes.

We need to remember this anytime we get to feeling down on ourselves. The devil loves to try to convince us that we're worthless, that nobody places any value on us. Jesus did. He loved and still loves you, me, and every Christian enough to suffer, bleed, and die for us. He is good, and His goodness is revealed in the greatness of His love.

Let's pay attention also to His words in verse 16. Here, we learn that one of Jesus’ great goals as the Good Shepherd is to bring all of His sheep from different pens together into one. Since the beginning, His church has had a sad history of division, but His desire is for all of us to be united.

We can't do anything about the contentiousness and pride of other people in other places, but we can make sure that in this congregation we stay united. Indeed, one of the things that I most love about this church is the willingness of so many not to press their views and judgments on others, rather choosing to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

We can't compromise on the truth, of course, but it is vital for us to be able to tell the difference between what the Bible says and what we think. Believe me; I know just how tempting it is to get on one of my hobby horses and take a lap around the auditorium! However, such self-righteous behavior does not glorify God. When we instead humbly, patiently pursue the things that make for peace while remaining focused on the Scriptures, He is pleased.

Finally, let's ponder Jesus’ words about the safety of the sheep. We'll conclude our reading with John 10:22-30. Here, we find a verse that Calvinists love to take out of context. They love to seize on verse 28 and insist that it teaches that it is impossible for a Christian to fall away.

This is a strange thing to believe, especially given that in Matthew 24, Jesus prophesies about a time in which He says many will fall away. Of course, there is no contradiction between His teaching in Matthew 24 and His teaching in John 10. Instead, we need to look at the way that Jesus describes His sheep just a verse earlier, in verse 27.

According to him, His sheep are those who hear His voice, present tense, and who follow Him, again present tense. This promise isn't about those who followed Jesus at some point in the past and aren't following Him anymore. Instead, it is about those who are following Him right now.

If we are striving to follow Him, His promise does apply to us, and it should give us great assurance and hope. Our salvation is not dependent on how good we are. Instead, it depends on how strong He is. No matter how hard the devil pulls, he will not be able to pull us out of the hands of Jesus, and if that's not enough, the Father Himself will exert his strength to keep us safe.

Here too, the devil loves to prey on our minds and try to make us afraid. Fear is one of his favorite tools. Because of Jesus, though, we don't have to be afraid. We can be confident of our salvation, but our confidence is not in ourselves. It is in Him.

God's Creations

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

As those of you who have been following our Bible-reading program know, as of this Sunday, we have run out of New Testament. If you have made it from the beginning to the end, I congratulate you! However, even though the reading plan has ended, the year has not. For the rest of 2022, we are going to be looking at some of the great themes of the Bible, events and stories from the Old Testament that have significant implications in the New Testament.

Our theme for this week is the creation. The significance of Genesis 1:1 can hardly be overstated. It defines the nature of existence, and the fundamental truth that we are the creations of a divine Creator appears throughout the rest of Scripture.

Though there are dozens of passages I could use to explore this concept, it probably will surprise none of you that I have chosen a psalm. Even though it is familiar to us, taken as a whole, it makes an argument from the creation that is easy to overlook. This evening, then, let's see what Psalm 19 has to say about God's creations.

The first section of this psalm is about the heavens. Let's read here from Psalm 19:1-6. These words contain one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. When we look up at the skies, whether by day or by night, they proclaim they are the handiwork of a Being so awesome in power that we can only describe Him as God. None of the celestial bodies make any noise as they hurtle through space, but their message is plain anyway.

As you might expect, at this point in my life I am interested in testing the evidence for my faith, and this is one of the most significant reasons why I am not an atheist. We may not realize it, but when scientists concluded that the universe had a beginning, that was a tremendous blow to unbelievers. Before that time, most skeptics had believed in a steady-state universe that had no beginning and therefore did not imply a Creator.

We're so used to hearing physicists talk about the Big Bang that we don't realize what a problem it is for a naturalistic explanation of the universe. Naturalists believe that everything can be explained by the operation of physical laws. However, something that created the universe with all of its natural laws must necessarily be outside of those laws.

In recent years, I have heard some doubters hypothesize that somewhere out there, there is a mother universe that goes along spawning daughter universes, and we happen to reside in one of those. The flaws with these claims are obvious. There is and can be no evidence for other universes. In making such assertions, scientists show that they are as much believers in the supernatural as we are. The only difference between us is that they are bending over backwards to refuse to acknowledge the existence of God.

After this, the psalmist turns his attention to another one of God's great creations, His word. This discussion appears in Psalm 19:7-10. In the previous section, the psalmist showed that there is a God. Now, he is proving that the Scriptures come from God. This proof consists of their perfect nature. The Bible in its wisdom, truth, and beauty shows that it is the product of an intellect that is more than human.

Let's start with beauty. This is an argument that is particularly important to me. I am a writer. It is one of the most precious of my gifts from God, and I have rejoiced in words and language all of my life.

I have read widely, everything from fantasy novels to medieval Chinese poetry. However, nowhere have I found anything as magnificent as the Bible. Many of the greatest wordsmiths of history learned their craft from studying it. Truly, it is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey!

The Bible's divine origin also is evident in its timeless wisdom. The world today loves to dismiss the Scriptures as outmoded. Nonetheless, when we test them, they prove to be as valid a guide to right living as they were thousands of years ago. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun! When I have done what the word of God told me to do, I have never found cause for regret. I only have regretted the times when I failed to follow it.

The Scriptures also are true. Certainly, we can bring in outside evidence that confirms their validity, but mostly, they authenticate themselves. The stories of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus offer us compelling reason to believe that He is the Son of God. Additionally, the Bible's web of fulfilled prophecy, which stretches for thousands of years, shows that it is the product of a mind that knows the end from the beginning. In every respect, the Bible is perfect, just as we would expect from a creation of God.

The final section of the psalm contemplates another of God's creations, we ourselves. Let's wrap up our reading with Psalm 19:11-14. The psalmist’s words, though, point out a significant difference between us and the creations discussed in the first two sections. Both the heavens and the Bible are perfect as they are, and they cannot be improved.

The same is not true of us. Instead, if we are to be perfect, we must be perfected. The first source of perfection that the psalmist mentions is God's word. When we are devoted to the Scriptures, they warn us of possible trouble ahead and set our feet on the path to eternal glory.

However, the Bible by itself is not enough to ensure that we will inherit eternal life. It is perfect, but our obedience to it is not. Thus, the psalmist must call on God directly. The first problem that he identifies is unintentional sin. As he notes, we don't even know what our unintentional sins are! Nonetheless, we can appeal to God to cleanse us from the sins that we didn't even notice, and His mercy is so great that He will.

Second, we need God's help in keeping us from rebellion. We know that if we go on sinning willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Thus, if we allow willful sin to rule us, we are doomed.

Here too, the solution is God. Only with His aid can we fight off the devil who wants to lead us astray. However, the good news is that if we are cleansed of unintentional sin and free from rebellion, we are blameless in His sight.

Indeed, the psalmist concludes the psalm by expressing his desire to be blameless in everything, utterly perfect just as the heavens and the Scriptures are. Like him, we should seek holiness not only in what we do but even in what we say and think. We will never achieve this goal on our own, but with the help of our rock and Redeemer, we can be acceptable to Him.

The Fellowship of Suffering

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

When we hear the word “fellowship”, we recognize it as having a positive connotation. At its most basic level, it makes us think of good time shared with others. As we grow in our biblical understanding of the concept, we might add things like worshiping together or being generous with our money to the list.

However, not all that the Bible says about fellowship is pleasant. This is apparent to us when we read about the unfruitful works of darkness in 2 Corinthians 6. Another, even more challenging, use appears in Philippians 3:10. Here, Paul expresses his desire to know the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.

This would strike the world as an utterly strange goal. Suffering is bad; who wants to seek it out? Nonetheless, if we want to be conformed to the image of our Master, we also must be conformed to the suffering that was such an important part of His earthly life. This morning, then, as part of our quarterly study of fellowship, let's explore the fellowship of suffering.

Today, I'd like us to consider three primary ways in which we ought to have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. The first of these is fellowship in self-denial. Let's read together from Matthew 5:38-42. This is a text that we often like to break apart. In particular, we like to focus on v. 39.

However, if we want to appreciate the Lord's meaning, we need to read vs. 39-42 as his response to v. 38. “An eye for an eye” was originally a judicial precept of the Law of Moses, but by the time of Christ, it had evolved into a justification for self-willed retaliation. As Jesus commonly does, He addresses not only the practice of retaliation but also the self-will that underlies the desire to retaliate.

Thus, we should read all of the scenarios Jesus proposes as a critique of worldly selfishness. The worldly want to hit back, counter- sue, give only what is required, and give nothing if not required. All of us can appreciate the feeling of satisfaction that comes with these things. We are standing up for ourselves!

By contrast, it's hard to stand there and take it, let the jerk win his lawsuit, carry the soldier’s burden farther, and see our money go to someone who didn't work for it. There is suffering involved! All the same, we see this behavior modeled by our Lord, who didn't look out for His interests but for ours. When He was required to give us nothing, He gave us His own life, and His self-denial gives us our example.

Second, we have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ through submission. This is not a popular topic! I've been maintaining my blog online since early 2014, and in that time, I have learned what things will lead to hundreds of people in the comments yelling at me. First, I create controversy when I illustrate a post using a picture of a woman. Second, though, I make a bunch of Christians really mad when I write about submission. We do not live in a submissive society, so it is hard for us to submit to God, to human authorities, to elders, or to our spouses.

Even so, we must pay attention to the word of God in 1 Peter 2:13-25. This is a long reading, but I think we need to read the whole thing to appreciate Peter's argument. He is discussing an ugly truth about the Roman Empire. Under Roman law, slaves were legally the property of their masters, and those masters could do whatever they wanted with the slaves, beating them or even worse.

To modern-day Americans, the solution is obvious. These slaves who are being abused should run away! However, that's not what Peter says. He urges first of all submission to the government, and as part of submission to the government, slaves must submit to their masters even when those masters are beating them.

This is a hard saying, and I think Peter knew that it was a hard saying when he wrote it. He was commanding innocent Christians to stay in a situation where they were suffering even though they were innocent. In doing so, they entered into fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, who Himself suffered unjustly just like they were doing. Ironically, the last part of v. 21 often is quoted as generic justification for imitating Jesus. However, the text explicitly is about following in the steps of Jesus in enduring suffering.

Thankfully, we do not have masters and slaves in the United States today, so none of us are required to stick around even though our legal owner beats us. However, the Biblical principle here is so strongly stated that it should lead us to reconsider our attitude towards submission. Too often, Christians disobey the law they don't agree with, ignore the elders they think are wrong, and walk out on the jerk spouse.

That is not the truth that Peter taught, and it is not the example that Christ gave. The counsel of both is to submit, even when it's painful, and even when it's hard. When we bear up despite suffering unjustly, we participate in the holy suffering of Christ.

Finally, we share in His sufferings when we accept ostracism. let's read here from Hebrews 13:10-14. I know Clay preached a sermon on this a few months back, but it fits so neatly into this topic that I couldn't help myself!

The Hebrews writer here is addressing a problem commonly faced by Jewish Christians in the first century. 2000 years ago, Jews were not “worship at the church of your choice” kind of folks. If you were a Jew, and you claimed Jesus as your Lord, your friends and family would cut you off. They wouldn't protect you from persecution, and they might even persecute you themselves. Not surprisingly, a lot of converts found this pressure unbearable and returned to the synagogues, which is why the book of Hebrews was written.

Here, the writer urges Jewish Christians to embrace the social stigma and shame. He notes that on the Jewish day of atonement, the bodies of the sacrifices were to be burned outside the camp, signifying that sin had left the camp. Like that, Jesus himself literally suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem. It also was a sign that He had been cut off.

In the same way, the writer tells his audience to go outside the camp, even though it meant not being associated with their people anymore. After all, outside the camp was the only place they could find Jesus.

The same is true for us. Even though we are not necessarily ostracized because of our faith in Christ, we constantly face pressure to conform to the world. Life is much easier for us if we hold our peace on certain issues, booze it up at the office Christmas party, watch the same trashy stuff on TV, and generally live lives that are indistinguishable from the lives of those around us. The more we stick out, the more we will be ostracized.

We must remember, though, that Christ is not in the camp with the world. He is outside the camp, and if we want to go to Him, we must show the world that we are not like they are. We don't have to manufacture issues by dressing funny or refusing to celebrate certain holidays. Instead, obeying the will of God is all that is required. When the world sees us fearlessly living for Him, they won't like it one little bit, but He will, and that's all that matters.

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